The NBA’s scheduling gods gave us a hefty 10-game slate for Monday night. Two-thirds of every team in the league will hit the hardwood tonight, which is the biggest slate we’ve had in quite some time. One particularly compelling matchup pits the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks against the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers. Just two games separate these teams from one another in the standings entering Monday’s action.
The Bucks are off to a solid 15-9 start despite a rash of injuries. Brook Lopez hasn’t played since opening night. Donte DiVincenzo hasn’t played at all. Khris Middleton missed significant time with Covid. Jrue Holiday missed a few games with a heel injury early in the year. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is listed as questionable to play tonight, has missed each of the last two games with a calf injury.
Regardless, Milwaukee is favored by better than a touchdown at home tonight against the 13-11 Cavaliers. Cleveland has injury issues of their own with Collin Sexton likely done for the year, but most of the rest of the team is healthy. Cleveland suffered a tough one-point loss at home to Utah, so this will be the Cavs’ second game in as many days.
Cavaliers vs. Bucks Betting Odds
Over 213.5 points (-110)
Under 213.5 points (-110)
The Cavs’ loss yesterday snapped a four-game winning streak. Cleveland would be the No. 7 seed in the East if the season ended today, which would be good for the first play-in spot. Cleveland has a plus-2.6 point differential so far this year, which is no small feat for a team with such an inexperienced roster. The Cavs’ offense still has a long way to go, but they enter tonight’s game in Milwaukee impressively ranked fourth in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
JB Bickerstaff decided to experiment with a jumbo frontcourt at the beginning of the season, and the gamble has paid off nicely. Lauri Markkanen is playing small forward at 6’11”, while Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen log most of the minutes up front. Allen is making a serious bid for an All-Star nod. If he gets it, he’ll become the first Cavs player since LeBron James and Kevin Love in 2017-18 to earn an All-Star nod.
Allen, who inked a lucrative extension to stay with the Cavs over the summer, is looking like a wise investment. The former Texas Longhorn is averaging 16.9 points and 11.3 rebounds per game this season, both career-highs. Allen also leads the league in field goal percentage (70.3 percent), and he’ll be an incredibly tough cover for an undersized Bucks frontcourt in this one. With Lopez sidelined, Milwaukee lacks size along the frontline.
Mobley has been remarkable through his first 20 games as a pro. The former No. 3 overall pick is giving Cleveland averages of 14.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and nearly three blocks/steals per game in 34 minutes a night. Mobley’s ability to defend multiple positions while spacing the floor offensively is the key to Cleveland’s oversized frontcourt.
The injury to Sexton has also led to a breakout opportunity for Darius Garland. The Cavs’ 2019 first-rounder actually leads the team in scoring (19.7 points per game), and he’s been phenomenal over the last handful of games. Since the beginning of Cleveland’s recent winning streak, Garland is averaging nearly 25 points per game while logging nearly 40 minutes a night.
We’ll see how the Bucks’ injury situation shakes out tonight. In addition to the former two-time MVP, both Grayson Allen and George Hill are also questionable for this one. If all three of them are out, the Bucks are suddenly quite thin at several wing spots.
Allen sitting out would lead to another start for Pat Connaughton. That went pretty well on Saturday night when Allen was a late scratch. All Connaughton did in that one was bag seven three-pointers on his way to 23 points in Milwaukee’s impressive 124-102 win over Miami. Connaughton has become a reliable contributor for this Bucks team, and he’s an underrated part of what makes them such a dangerous team offensively.
If Antetokounmpo misses a third straight game, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton will have more offensive responsibility. Middleton finished with 22 points, nine assists, and six rebounds in a solid all-around effort on Saturday. Holiday chimed in with 16 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. Bobby Portis, who continues to start in place of the injured Lopez, totaled 19 points and 16 rebounds in 30 minutes, as well.
If Antetokounmpo plays, the Cavs’ young frontcourt will have its hands full. Mobley would presumably get the first crack at trying to defend Giannis, but there isn’t a single team in the league capable of stifling him completely. Still, this should be an interesting matchup between two of the best two-way forwards in the league so far this year.
Cavaliers vs. Bucks NBA Pick
It’s a bit surprising to see the Bucks listed as such heavy favorites here. Part of it is due to the fact that oddsmakers are still reluctant to buy into what the Cavs have accomplished early on. It’s also worth noting that Cleveland isn’t particularly well-rested after playing a tough game against Utah just last night. Milwaukee is also at home. The defending champs are 8-4 so far this season at Fiserv Forum.
Still, I think there’s some meat on the bone here for Cleveland. If Antetokounmpo sits out, these teams are a lot more evenly matched than many would assume. The Cavs play hard every single night, and I’d expect them to put forth another strong effort even with fatigue looming as a potential factor. At the very least, Cleveland should be able to keep the final scoreline respectable, even on the road.
I think Cavs +7.5 is the way to go here. It’s only a matter of time before betting lines start to adjust for how good the 2021-22 Cavaliers actually are. Take Cleveland to cover the touchdown spread on the road in this one.
Point spread: Cavaliers +4.5 (-110), Heat -4.5 (-110)
Over/Under: Over 205.5 points (-110), Under 205.5 points (-110)
Prediction: Cavaliers +4.5 (-110)
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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